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My wife has lost interest in affection and sex; I need advice.

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  • I don't know your wife, but I can identify with having an autoimmune disorder. I was diagnosed nearly 2 yrs ago now, and for the first year maybe, I was consumed by it. I have not had a concrete diagnosis yet, Lupus and sjogrens syndrome are top differential diagnoses.

    You said that she does a lot of research on it, and has looked into everything. Could it be that she also, is so overwhelmed by it and it's more on her mind than even she realizes? How often does she bring it up? How does she refer to herself and her body and the disease? How much time per week is spent researching and managing the symptoms? Has she been evaluated for depression?

    Also, don't underestimate the power of chronic pain. Ongoing, even low grade pain can be very taxing on our bodies and mentally. I can speak to this because I know very well how pain can fool our minds. If she's using heat daily, she's in pain. And Pain, even if we're used to it, can be draining on our energy and resources for doing more each day. Her body is not OK. Has her doctor discussed a exercise and weight loss program? Is she actively moving toward better health? Added weight cannot be good for that spine, increasing her pain.

    I think there's a lot going on with your wife honestly. More than she probably even realizes. She is not a healthy woman. Add to this the hormones that her body is naturally shifting, then the injected hormones her body is forced to process. I'm not her doctor, but in my opinion she needs to do a factory reset, so to speak. As a woman who's been through this hormonal and health crisis, that's where she needs to start.

    Nothing goes well when our health and mind are out of whack. Nothing.


    • I read back through the affectionate emails my wife and I used to send one another. Three years ago, at least, her emails had already faded from surprise messages of "love you so much and can't wait to be with you again" to responses only that say "so grateful for your love, so important to me, sorry I'm don't give much back." These taper to "grateful for your love, sorry," to "grateful," then to the dreaded "love you too."

      In this forum, I read over and over in your responses that, by what I write, she's badly stressed and probably unable to respond. That her physical pain probably eclipses her feelings. That her shame at her weight probably eclipses her feelings. That she may be starting menopause. That the hormonal contraception she takes may depress her libido and mess her up in general. (Concerning my resistance to getting a vasectomy when she asked, I said to her only that I didn't want to; I kept my selfish reasons to myself. When I eventually agreed to do it, I said this to her without comment. When she decided to keep getting shots, it came out of the blue to me.) I think most of what you all observe is true. I feel great sympathy for her and, for the aspects of her situation I can relate to in some way, I feel empathy and sadness.

      Within a year after we met, the sparkle I once had from my bipolar mania was gone and my bipolar moods tended ever downward. Within a couple years, I was depressed out of my mind. I could barely get up in the morning. She stuck by me; she never pressed me about my mood or behavior. She told me later this was very hard time for her. By a little over a year later, meds had brought me up to a somewhat normal level, and I've gotten less irritable, more stable, and more cheerful year by year since. But as I've improved, her affection toward me and tolerance of my flaws have waned year by year. The absence I feel has been significantly longer than the one she endured.

      When we began together, we agreed not to marry. Both of us had leaned on marriage to hold failing relationships together. We both wanted the absence of a contract to spur us to give more because the other could leave any time. When I was depressed, we got married in secret to put me on her employer's health insurance. We agreed this was a legal necessity neither of us wanted. She made clear she felt nothing had changed in our commitment each to ourselves to give as though we had no commitment to each other. I bring this up as background to the structure of our relationship, what loyalty each of us feels that _the other_ owes. It has no bearing on my own feelings of responsibility and loyalty.

      I've fallen behind too. Partly in response to the absence I feel from her, partly out of my own laziness. My reinvestment in our relationship has been spotty, largely because of her lack of response.

      Once or twice in the last year or so, she asked vaguely whether I was losing interest. I said I wasn't; that was true. She told me a couple weeks ago she feels forced to choose between me and her children, and she chooses her children because she has to. She's making the right decision: When I was in that situation with my last wife, I chose her, and I regret that. Had I that choice now, I'd choose as my wife is choosing. But she knows where this can go. She cheated on her first husband; she knows what it feels like to start to shake loose when a relationship isn't working. (She told me the day we met that she'd had had an affair; it didn't bother me then and doesn't now. It certainly wouldn't justify my doing the same.) I suspect she's not giving at least partly because she fears I'm leaving.

      I'm going to open up to her about my feelings. (Thank you in particular to atskitty for guidance in how to do that.) Maybe this will lead somewhere. My instinct is it won't; she's not a slacker: she wouldn't be holding back if she didn't feel she had to; plus, she knows the deal between us. But I really want this to work; leaving would be a death to me. It would take me a long time to recover, which I need to keep in mind.

      But what if it doesn't work out; say she says she can't give more or says she will and doesn't: If you were in my place, facing a future with a partner you once shared mad love with now treating you like a good friend, not more, in a house where one step-child hates you and both disregard you, with rare (and growing rarer), bumbling, unsatisfying sex followed by acting as if nothing had happened, would you stay? If you would, I'd really, really love to know why, and how.

      You all have given me a tremendous amount. I know far more than I did about our situation and how I feel about it. If no one wants to respond, I understand. I've asked a lot, you've given a lot, and I know I'm intense, demanding, and sometimes abrasive. I owe this forum, though, and will look for ways to give back.

      Thank you very, very much.


      Give all your love now. For all we know we might be dead by tomorrow.


      • You ask whether we'd stay, in the situation you shared. For now, yes, I would. because I don't think every avenue of solution has been traveled. I don't necessarily think this has come to a head yet, and it needs to. There needs to be a stirring up, a wtf moment for her.

        My marriage failed after I had gone to counseling alone, seeking skills to reach him, It was a long process of fighting for my marriage and giving up, only to eventually realize that he likely has a mental illness that I cannot win over...it was hell, and it has taken me years to understand the extent of the trauma, and recover. I can say I left no stone unturned.
        idk that I will ever be happy in a relationship again.

        I think you can thank us, by sticking around macon lol
        Stay and keep us posted and maybe help the next one facing trials, based on your experience and what you learn. You still have a long road ahead my dear. Stick around for our support as you move forward.


        • Originally posted by macon View Post
          I'm just, well, really mad.
          Anger is an underrated emotion.

          I used mine to harden myself and fight. No one comes between us - not friends, not work, not family, not ourselves. If I have bitterness, pride, ego, laziness, fear or any kind of selfishness getting in between us, I fight myself to get rid of it.

          We don't have children, but we wouldn't let any come between us if we did. Children grow up and leave. Husband and wife stay together.

          For us it's just logic. The vows we took are unbreakable by our own will. We had really honest conversations. We discussed feelings, sex, family history, past relationships. We even took it dark and talked about adultery and death - the things that do break a marriage bond. Neither one of us is willing to kill ourselves. We’re not murderers. We’re afraid of the path that sex with other people would take us down. When it was all said and done, we love life and God too much, so we were left with two options: stay together miserably or stay together happily. We decided to work at happiness.

          I vote for you to stay. I believe any marriage can work.
          "Those sowing seed with tears
          Will reap with a joyful shout." - Psalm 126


          • Macon see you online and tried to pm you but you don't hve enough posts


            • Macon one has to have a certain number of posts to receive Pms, don't know how many


              • You’re right, atskitty, that I’ve work yet to do on this one. It’s worth fighting for, well, not fighting—there’s no one to fight—worth showing spine, tenacity. I can do that; thank you for the encouragement.

                I want to offer something in reference to your pain at the loss of your marriage, because failed marriages, mental illness, and pain are things I have a lot of experience with.

                The combination of your advice to me and your description of your pain from a marriage you struggled so hard to save make it sound like at least part of your pain is from struggling in vain. You’re clearly a brave, strong woman. What you did was above and beyond and a reflects very well on you.

                Not every marriage can be saved, no matter how hard one partner tries. Some people you just have to leave where jesus flung them. They’re unreachable. I was one: I’m bipolar II and didn’t start on medication till I was around fifty.

                You’re only human. You did the most anyone could. You can take pride in your devotion to your marriage and to a man who, it appears, treated you badly. Good men are out there, men who want a woman with your strength and who would stand by you as you learn to be happy again.

                It may be hard to trust again. Choosing the right man will be essential; give your love only to a man who makes you glow. A friend of mine, a little older than I, crashed out of a marriage to a flaming narcissist. Her head was so turned around she thought she’d never be able to figure out how to love again. She found a man who saw in her the woman he wanted and had the strength and patience to stand by her as she found her way through to love again. He was a beacon for her; she trusted his love and steadfastness and, last I heard, was extremely happy in that relationship.

                You can only heal your heart so much on your own. You have to let go and risk, and love does the rest. Unfortunately, risk is, well, risk. You might trust the wrong guy and that would really suck. Maybe you’ve heard of Regina Spektor, a startlingly wise young singer-songwriter. When she was in her late twenties she wrote a song called “Radio” with a verse that still makes me tear up sometimes, it’s so true:

                This is how it works:
                You peer inside yourself,
                You take the things you like
                And try to love the things you took.
                And then you take that love you made
                And stick it into some,
                Someone else's heart
                Pumping someone else's blood.
                You’re walking arm in arm,
                You hope it don't get harmed,
                But even if it does
                You just do it all again.

                It may seem like well she’s young and young people do that. Partly they do it because they’re young, but partly they’re young because they do it.

                Time may come when you feel you might maybe want to give it a try. When you do, risk as much as you can bear to. If you fall, you will survive; you know that because look what you’ve survived already. But probably you’ll choose well: one of the benefits of being, you know, old is that we’ve made so many mistakes we see a lot of them coming and cross the road.

                Love is all there is, really. Reach for it and it can be yours.


                Give all your love now. For all we know we might be dead by tomorrow.


                • Hi Amy. I'm clueless. I tried to figure out how to message you but got nothing. I will check the forum at 10:30 EST if you want to try again. Macon

                  Give all your love now. For all we know we might be dead by tomorrow.


                  • Hi Stillness,

                    I’ve thought a lot about what you wrote. You’ve encouraged me quite a bit, and your most recent post is helpful, too, but also a little unsettling.

                    Though raised catholic, I left that behind long ago. I’m on my third marriage and have no concept of sacred vows. Maybe more important is the fact that my second marriage was to a catholic woman who had me on board with the idea that the couple comes before the children. Problem was, they weren’t her children. That went badly. My children suffered from my poor judgment. (Their mother had left me when they were small and then a few years later died.)

                    I suppose I could have stayed with my second wife, but I was miserable. She had masterfully presented herself as someone she really wasn’t and couldn’t keep up. It wasn’t her fault; she applied the tools given her to land a husband. The people we turned out to be didn’t really like each other very much, and, for various reasons, including her conflicts with my sons, I was really mad at her. So I ended that. It was ugly; I made a bad job of it. She deserved better. In addition to being in a manic period, I was ignorant, misguided, and selfish. I learned, got medicated for my bipolar disorder, and do better now.

                    The children I live with are my wife’s. Her responsibility to them precedes me. I don’t contest that. I think responding to my love would actually give her more of herself, not take away, but that’s her decision. In any event, she and I agree: her children come first.

                    I live in a world where life is short and nothing follows. I have to balance my conscience with my wishes for myself. If I go too far against my conscience, I drag myself down; if I give myself away, I’ve lost myself.

                    So your encouragement as a fellow man who’s faced relationship challenges helps me. But I can’t apply the same tools. I’ve got to find strength elsewhere. I think the most helpful thing in your post is that in your conversations you laid out your darker feelings and fears. I waffle about that. I have depths I’ve come to terms with but am not proud of. I’m not sure what good there can be in dredging that up, though I know firsthand the result of leaving important things unspoken. Seems laying it out worked for you. That’s something for me to think about.

                    Thank you again for your thoughtful consideration of my messy problems. I read everything you write many times and ponder it. Shared wisdom often helps in ways we might not have expected.


                    Give all your love now. For all we know we might be dead by tomorrow.


                    • Macon

                      from your first post "we enjoy each other's company, laugh a lot, go on dates" you tell each other love you
                      it seems your marriage does have a lot going for it, probably even more than a lot of marriages
                      so my guess is you two would probably want to work together for a solution


                      • Originally posted by macon View Post
                        If I go too far against my I have depths Ive come to terms with but am not proud of. Im not sure what good there can be in dredging that up, though I know firsthand the result of leaving important things unspoken. Seems laying it out worked for you.
                        Not always so well.

                        For example, this one time we were hanging out with one of our single, pretty friends that was talking about her desire to get married, but not wanting to settle. I mentioned to my wife later that it would not be good for her and I to be alone together because she's horny. That aspect of the discussion had gone over her head. She asked me if I was attracted to her. I said I was. She went insane with jealousy!

                        This was around the time we had really started discussing things in depth and struggling with our differences. The filter was off and we were trying to be really open with the flow of information and not respond too emotionally to what was said. But, she was under the impression that she was the only woman I was attracted to. This new information was too much, especially when I told her that things could have been that way between us if we had a good sexual relationship.

                        All of a sudden, we were having sex every day. That sounds good, in theory. But this was angry and jealous stuff. She wasn't my lady. She was a desperate woman trying to keep her man's eyes off of other women. It wasn't lovemaking. It wasn't us. I didn't like it. That's when I learned firsthand that all sex is not good sex and that some stuff is better left unsaid.

                        I guess when "dredging" you get good and bad, though. I still try to be open, but I'm more careful.
                        "Those sowing seed with tears
                        Will reap with a joyful shout." - Psalm 126


                        • Leave em where Jesus flung em....ha! I will use that one!
                          I also like the statement about doing it because they're young, and young because they do it.

                          Thanks for the encouragement and kindness.


                          • I love this thread.

                            And yes, you have to have established yourself here for a while before you can begin pm'ing. That security feature protects our members from creepers or spammers joining purely to harass our members privately. :-D
                            "Be what you're looking for."


                            • I talked with my wife about my feelings and needs. It was a good talk; I got almost none of what I wanted. I told her I will leave if I can't get at least some of the intimacy and sex I want. She seemed either to have expected that or not to care all that much about it except for her then being alone.

                              She puts a lot of weight on the problems I had and the pain that caused her before I was diagnosed and medicated for bipolar II. She says her feelings changed. No gain.

                              She discovered I was looking at porn years ago and she places a lot of weight on that. She can't get over it. She's very liberal, but she's also big on a version of feminist thinking that criminalizes things men do and think just because they're men. We have some differing opinions on this, but she doesn't seem hold my opinions against me; just the nature and extent of my desire. This issue is a problem I really hadn't recognized. No gain.

                              She feels that relationships don't need much physical intimacy after the partners get past the infatuation at the beginning. For her, all the sex and intimacy early on is about getting the relationship started, solid, and stable. I would like to have known that at the beginning. I told her I see relationships differently: intimacy and sex are part of what __keeps__ a relationship stable and solid. No gain.

                              She has the stresses I knew about and figured out with help from people in this forum. She puts a tremendous amount of weight on my conflicts with her children, despite recognizing her children are the source of the conflicts. So even though it's her daughter's hostility toward me and her son's outrageous behavior that cause me to get angry with them now and then (a few times a week, incidents lasting a few seconds), and though she feels few people, including herself, could do as well as I do in this situation, it's still me or them to her. No gain.

                              Her weight disgusts her. She can't stand to see herself in the mirror. She more or less doesn't--can't--believe me when I say I'm physically attracted to her in any significant way. No gain.

                              She blames me for not having sex. I don't approach her or even ask. When I pointed out that her consistently negative responses and criticism of the way I ask her are why I quit, her response was I should change the way I ask and/or approach her when she's not tired or busy. But she busies herself all the time and needs to sit and read before bed, then she goes to bed very late. Times when she's not busy or tired occur essentially never. No gain.

                              Since this talk, she has accepted and responded more to my affection and offered a small amount herself. Small, as yet indeterminate gain here.

                              She sees counseling as a waste of time.

                              Given all this, I didn't pursue birth control or menopause as possible causes of her uninterest in sex and intimacy.

                              The only times she showed any emotion were when she talked about how her children are slipping away from her, and when she said how doesn't want to face the future after them alone. Her lack of emotion all by itself was a let down for me. It felt like our relationship doesn't matter all that much to her, that I don't matter all that much.

                              This is my rock to push up the hill; she's not going to help. I'll see how far I can push it and how much work that is, and how hard I have to work to keep it from falling back, and decide whether it's worth it. However, she's very loyal and kind. She will stay with me as I get older. That's not nothing.

                              Thank you again for all your help. I really had a lot to sort out, and I was able to have a civil, meaningful talk with her that rarely veered into areas of no value. Turns out it didn't help much, but that was my gut all along. The future looks about the same as it did before.

                              Give all your love now. For all we know we might be dead by tomorrow.


                              • That's great stuff!

                                When we were struggling and having conversations, sometimes I'd feel hopeless afterward and at best like there was no progress made - just a lot of useless talk. But getting things out in the open helps to uncover and resolve issues. Sometimes it takes a while to process and the improvements might just be baby steps. Patience is the key if it works.

                                My wife use to try to talk about what I wasn't or was doing, but I felt that that was just her trying to deflect her feelings of inadequacy off onto me. If you've read other threads, you'll find that's a common theme when the low-libido mate is confronted. I pretty much ignored it. It wasn't like I stunk or was unfaithful or inattentive. You're not about to deprive me and make me feel guilty because I didn't do the dishes or because there's pressure when I'm not even getting it in once a week. I listened when she spoke, though. It was hard (haha), but I didn't accuse, but I also didn't let her throw me off with that nonsense.

                                I wonder if your wife knows how little you have sex? With mine, there was some denial. I wasn't keeping track, but it was so little that I could guess pretty accurately. She didn't believe it. To my surprise, she had been keeping track of our sexual encounters for years, but never bothered to count. Seeing the validity of my complaints in her own records was huge for us. There was no denying the black and white record in her own hand.

                                The thing that most concerns me about what you did is the ultimatum - sex or I'm gone. One of the things that encourages closeness in someone is knowing that they'll be there for you when stuff gets tight. They're not just going to cut and run. That makes for feelings of security, trust, and emotional intimacy. Sexual intimacy comes more naturally in that kind of environment.

                                I feel like what you got accomplished is very good, though. Like we said, sometimes it hurts a bit when you're trying to fix what's broken. That's part of the process.
                                "Those sowing seed with tears
                                Will reap with a joyful shout." - Psalm 126



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